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Hospital Microbiome Project

May 25, 2017

What happens to the microbes people bring to a hospital after it first opens?



A hospital operating room. (Pexels/Public Domain)


The hidden life of hospitals. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Spend just a few hours in a hospital room, and the microbial life there will start to resemble the microbes of your own home. That’s because hospitals aren’t the sterile environments we assume them to be.

JACK GILBERT (University of Chicago):

It’s technically impossible. Every human being is a walking bag of microorganisms.


To understand how our microbes colonize hospitals and affect health, University of Chicago microbial ecologist Jack Gilbert and his team created the Hospital Microbiome Project, sampling the bacterial diversity of a brand-new hospital for a year. They report in Science Translational Medicine that within 24 hours, human skin bacteria dominated the hospital microbiome.


When a patient moved into their new room, they were able to exchange microbes with that room.


Gilbert says patients rapidly exchanged microbes with their rooms. And while the vast majority were harmless, the longer their stay, the more antibiotic-resistant genes their microbes picked up. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

Story by Susanne Bard